Karyn Buxman

Catching Up With Karyn

Funny Means Money: Humor and Your Marketing Message


A bunch of guys are playing football in a park. The ball is hiked. The quarterback steps back to throw. The receiver—an old woman!—shuffles down the field. Ninety-year-old comedic actress Betty White nearly catches the ball, but suddenly she’s brutally tackled. One of her teammates teases, “Hey man, you’re playing like Betty White out there!” She’s given a Snickers Bar, which transforms her back into his proper male form. The tag line: “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”

It became one of the most talked-about commercials in Super Bowl history.

Ask folks if they watch the Super Bowl and you’ll often hear, “I just watch the game for the commercials.” People remember and talk about these ads! Especially the funny ones.

This is why leaders at companies like Frito-Lay, PepsiCo, Allstate Insurance, Reebok, McDonald’s and Budweiser pay $4.5 million for 30-second spots, most of which are humorous. Why do they do this? Because they understand that FUNNY MEANS MONEY.

According to Mark Levitt, professor of marketing at NYU, “People will pay more attention to a humorous commercial than a factual one, because humor undercuts logic, appeals to the emotions, and opens people to be influenced.” When we find something funny, our level of alertness goes up and we retain information better. This, in turn, improves brand recognition and sales.

Just ask the folks at Taco Bell. When a tiny Chihuahua uttered the words, “Yo Quiero Taco Bell,” the company saw a substantial rise in sales. Not only that, their mascot’s phrase became part of the nation’s lexicon. The Aflac duck raised brand awareness from 12% to 90%. And Geico’s Gecko Campaign played a major role in their emergence as one of the leading auto insurers in the United States.

Be strategic. Check out funny commercials on YouTube and think about what makes them work. Then look at your organization or department and start writing down how you could weave some humor into your messages. Don’t be afraid of being silly—after all, if talking geckos, ducks, and Chihuahuas can be successful, you can afford to be playful.

Karyn Buxman, neurohumorist, is the author of the book Lead with Levity: Strategic Humor for Leaders and creator of an 18 (or 30) day online program to help leaders authentically, consistently and strategically use humor to enhance communication, build resilience and boost engagement. Click here to listen to 3 sample lessons.

She can also be reached via:

Karyn@KarynBuxman.com

Twitter: @KarynBuxman

Facebook: FB.com/KarynBuxmanSpeaks

LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/KarynBuxman

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Posted in: Business, Humor, Leadership

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